2008 Arkansas State Preview - Defense

Posted Apr 11, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Arkansas State Indian Defense

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Arkansas State Preview | 2008 ASU Offense
2008 ASU Defense | 2008 ASU Depth Chart
2007 CFN ASU Preview | 2006 CFN ASU Preview 

What you need to know:
The best defense in the Sun Belt last year wasn't great at stopping offenses cold, but it was good at keeping teams from blowing up. Now there are issues with the entire secondary needing to be replaced, including the tremendous safety tandem of Tyrell Johnson and Khyyam Burns, but things should be fine if Cordarious Mingo and the JUCO transfers can shine right away. The linebacking corps should be good, even though it's woefully undersized, while the line needs to figure out how to get into the backfield after being the worst in the Sun Belt in sacks and tackles for loss.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Ben Owens, 96
Sacks: Evan Van Dolah, 2
Interceptions: M.D. Jennings, 1

Star of the defense: Senior LB Ben Owens
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore SS M.D. Jennings
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Cordarious Mingo
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Alex Carrington
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Owens, 2) DE Brian Flagg, 3) Carrington
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, front seven experience
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, defensive back starting experience

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
The line needs to start generating more of a push into the backfield, and that starts with 6-5, 280-pound junior Alex Carrington who made 38 tackles with a sack and five tackles for loss. He managed to earn honorable mention All-Sun Belt honors. He has great size and a good burst, and now he needs to become a far bigger factor.

Back on the other side is senior Brian Flagg after a 44 tackles, 1.5 sack, 5.5 tackle for loss season. At 6-2 and 243 pounds, he's a decent-sized playmaker who has grown from being a decent linebacker prospect into a good end. Showing no ill-effects from missing all of 2006, he still didn't grow into the top pass rusher expected.

6-2, 290-pound junior Khari Mays is a big presence on the nose making 17 tackles. While he's strong and a decent anchor for everyone else to work around, he's not going to get into the backfield on a regular basis and he has to make more plays against the run.

The new starter to the mix is sophomore Bryan Hall, an undersized 6-2, 260-pound tackle prospect who made ten stops as a reserve. While he's small, he's a quick option who should do more for the lousy pass rush.

Projected Top Reserves: The rising star of the line is Bamidele Ayoola, a 6-2, 244-pound redshirt freshman who had a fantastic spring and showed off the speed and quickness missing in Carrington. Ayoola will likely find himself in a specialist's role.

The team's best reserve is 6-1, 245-pound junior Stanley Wakwe on the end. The former Arkansas State transfer turned in a nice first season making 23 tackles and three tackles for loss, but he wasn't much of a pass rush. With his size and quickness he should be in the backfield more often.

Watch Out For ... Ayoola. The coaching staff would rather not be forced to manufacture a pass rush from back seven and needs more from the line. Ayoola has the potential to be a third-down star when turned loose.
Strength: Experience. With three good starters and with Flagg a smart, tough player who should do far more, the potential is there for a big turnaround. Carrington might be limited, but he's a good one to work around.
Weakness: Pass rush. There's no real reason whatsoever the line should only have come up with 13 sacks and 56 tackles for loss. With more experience, and with a player like Flagg, there should be far more pressure on the passers.
Outlook: For the last two seasons the line has been pathetic at getting into the backfield and things likely aren't going to dramatically change. There's good experience, the potential for decent depth on the ends, and good production against the run, but the backup tackles are extremely light and will desperately need star recruit Gregory McCall to be a player early on. Power teams should be successful up the gut, but overall the line should be better ... but not by a whole bunch.
Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters: Gone is star Koby McKinnon on the strongside, and now it'll be up to sophomore Darius Glover to try to replace the 101 tackles and all-around play. Only 6-2 and 210 pounds, he's a small, tough player who made two tackles as a true freshman. He should get into the backfield without a problem.

6-2, 223-pound senior Ben Owens is back in the middle after finishing third on the team with 96 tackles and three tackles for loss. He has excellent speed and range, and now he has to use it a little more to get into the backfield and be more of a factor in pass coverage.

Also returning to a starting spot is 6-0, 205-pound sophomore Javon McKinnon on the weakside. A big find in the starting lineup, the speedster made 41 tackles. However, he did next to nothing in pass coverage and didn't use his speed to get into the backfield. He was also inconsistent registering 11 of his stops in one game, the loss to Tennessee.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Glover for time on the strongside will be 6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman Demario Davis. A good defensive recruit last year, he was also a good high school wide receiver. His athleticism will make him an interesting option.

6-0, 215-pound junior Greg Hardy was a key reserve making 38 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He saw starting time in two games working in the middle behind Owens, and while he's undersized, he can hold his own.

Watch Out For ... Owens to grow into an All-Sun Belt superstar. He has the athleticism and the ability to do even more after a great first season as a starter. With McKinnon gone, it's Owens' corps.
Strength: Quickness. This is a very fast, very active group that'll be all over the field. There needs to be more done against the pass and more overall pressure into the backfield, and this corps has the athleticism to do it.
Weakness: Size. The six main linebacker prospects combine to average around 210 pounds per man. The Red Wolves basically have big corners playing linebacker.
Outlook: This is a veteran crew that was surprisingly strong against the run considering all the new faced last year. There are playmakers here, like Owens and McKinnon, but it's still a young group, even with all the experience, that'll make a few more mistakes before it gets better. Speed and athleticism will have to overcome the lack of size.
Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Gone are Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns, the greatest safety tandem in the history of the Sun Belt. No, you don't just replace two players of that caliber. Sophomore M.D. Jennings has the toughest job having to replace Johnson, the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, but he has some experience making 26 tackles and an interception as a key backup. While he's a good tackler and a physical player, he's one of the nation's lightest strong safeties at 6-0 and 165 pounds.

Trying to take over for Burns, who made 97 tackles and six tackles for loss, will be junior Evan Van Dolah, a 6-2, 199-pound flash of lightning with next-level athleticism. He wasn't able to get on the field too often with Burns such a rock, but he did manage to come up with 31 tackles and two sacks.

Almost certain to step in and become a starting No. 1 corner from day one will be JUCO superstar Cordarious Mingo. The 5-11, 195-pounder was a first team NJCAA All-American who was recruited by LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, and other BCS schools and could be an instant star of the secondary. He's a great talent with tremendous speed.

Looking to take over on the other side is junior Daylan Walker, a solid backup last year who made 30 tackles with three broken up passes. He's not big at 5-9 and 166 pounds and will have to fight to get the job on the right side, but he'll be a factor.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Dominique Williams was mainly a safety when he started out his career but is now an option at left corner. The 5-10, 170-pounder made 16 tackles and broke up three passes, and while he's not a lockdown defender, he's aggressive.

It might take about a game before JUCO transfer Walter Moody takes over a starting corner spot. He's only 5-11 and 175 pounds but he's a big hitter and a strong coverman who's dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Sophomore Leroy Trahan started out his career at San Bernardino College making six interceptions and 29 tackles. Yet another small, quick ASU corner, he'll work on the right side early on.

Watch Out For ... Mingo. A major recruiting coup, Mingo might have been a key factor in the LSU secondary this year and he could become the defense's new star.
Strength: The JUCO transfers. There's a chance Mingo, Moody and Trahan are all in the starting four at some point early on. These three have the talent to make the secondary shine.
Weakness: Starting experience. There are enough players who saw playing time last year to step in and immediately make an impact, but it might take a little while for everything to come together. Losing Johnson and Burns will sting no matter how well the new safeties play.
Outlook: For the second year in a row the pass defense was excellent. Having a safety tandem in Johnson and Burns was the main reason, but the entire corps did a good job. Now the Red Wolves are starting from square one needing three JUCO transfers to play big roles right away while praying that last year's backups can shine in the limelight.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: It's the third straight year for the tandem of PK Josh Arauco and punter Brent Shrable. Arauco, a junior, improved greatly last season hitting 15 of 23 field goals while showing far better range. He's not going to blast a 55-yarder, but he can be counted on from 45 yards and in.

Schrable, a senior, is a former linebacker who also improved from 38 yards per kick in 2006 to 41.7 yards per boot last year. He's not great at pinning teams deep, but he isn't bad at hanging it up in the air.

Kevin Jones is a strong punt returner averaging 11.5 yards per try, improving greatly after struggling in 2006. Brandon Thompkins is one of the nation's best all-around return men averaging 18.6 yards on the five punt returns he had a shot at and 21.7 yards per kickoff return.

Watch Out For ... Arauco to get a few more long shots. He wasn't bad from beyond 40 yards hitting three of six shots, but he topped out at 45 yards. With his experience he'll get a shot at a 50-yarder this year.
Strength: The return game. A major, painful weakness in 2006, now it'll be among the best in America. Thompkins is fantastic whenever he gets the ball and Jones has improved by leaps and bounds.
Weakness: Big legs. Shrable isn't going to get the team out of trouble while Arauco's range is limited.
Outlook: The special teams made the biggest improvement of any unit on the team and it should be a strength again. As long as Arauco and Shrable are consistent, and if Jones and Thompkins do what they did last year, ASU will have a major advantage. The coverage units are solid.